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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Dear SA, is the juice worth the squeeze?

“Is the juice worth the squeeze?”

The popular phrase that made headlines for its use by the now-embattled associate dean at Stanford Law School has found a surprising context here at UB. Although not for the same reasons, the SA’s justification for its new policy barring certain student organizations from having third-party affiliations fits the description.

The SA president seemed to suggest that this rule was necessary to “protect SA” at times when SA policies come into conflict with larger organizations. I should have thought that an explicit example(s) was warranted to bring about such a sweeping change. None were given. “We all know why we are doing this.” I don’t think we do, but the consensus seems to suggest that the action is targeted at two student clubs (that shall remain nameless) that rely on funding from their parent organizations to host large events on campus. It is not the job of an elected official to leave the wider population guessing the motives of rulemaking and rule-makers. Neither is it good policy to make rules with the sole aim of disenfranchising certain students of their freedoms of expression and association. A good law/rule is one that is made in good faith, addressed towards specific concerns and enacted in a way that causes the least harm.

Assuming arguendo that the rationale behind the rule was to indeed “protect the SA,” was this really the best way to do so? There were several positive ways that the SA could have pushed back or dissociated itself from clubs that it felt were not representative of the overall student body or conflicted with its own views. After all, the answer to “bad speech” is more speech and more speech only. But sadly, it has indulged in the modern political trend of going down the path of most destruction and division. The SA has shown that its way of achieving conformity is to impose its crushing regulatory might on those relatively powerless in an uneven playing field. The very fact that the SA had to resort to this raw exercise of political power suggests that it has admitted defeat in the marketplace of ideas.

Going by the 7-1 vote in the senate, one would think that the support for such a measure is overwhelming in the student body. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Apart from the students that are staunchly against the idea for principled reasons, we have many students that seem to have lost clubs and associations that they held dear. In many cases, these clubs were their “safe spaces.” More importantly, a certain section of the student population, however small, has received a crystal-clear signal: You and your views are not welcome. Even though this action does not target any particular club (such action would most likely be unlawful), the SA seems to have chosen the best alternative in the book.  Perhaps the SA should consider handing out blanket student activity fee waivers to students that have been adversely affected by this new policy. 

That the SA didn’t consider the collateral damage of this move is unfathomable. I will end this with an open question to anyone from the SA government who is willing to answer: Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Sincerely,

Rahul Bharadwaj

Student - School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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